Solon fumes over corrupt tag

A leader of the House of Representatives on Thursday challenged Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) member Grego Belgica to prove his claim that up to 12 congressmen were linked to corruption involving public works projects.

“To my recollection, this is the second time in recent months that he has made this allegation, although he refuses to name names, saying he does not have solid evidence to file cases,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said.

“If that is so, then he should just shut up. If he has evidence that can stand in court, he should file cases against the lawmakers he claims are involved in corruption,” he said.

Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, said it is unfair to all congressmen and the House of Representatives as an institution for Belgica to allege that some lawmakers are engaged in corrupt activities and to refuse to name them and file charges.

“If he cannot support what he is saying, then what is his purpose? To taint all House members and their institution and put them under a cloud of suspicion? We have been trying to improve the image of the House and he is tarnishing it,” he added.

Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. echoed Defensor’s challenge to Belgica even as he urged the PACC to name the legislators and file appropriate charges against them.

“To be fair to Congress, the PACC should name the “less than 12” legislators allegedly involved in corruption activities alongside DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) officials,” said Garbin. “More importantly, evidence must be presented and cases must be filed.”

“We are all against corruption and if indeed true, then the corruption must end and those responsible must be held accountable,” Garbin said.

Defensor said Belgica’s job “is not to engage in trial by publicity but to gather evidence and build cases against corrupt officials and file them before the proper forum like the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Office of the Ombudsman.”

In a radio interview on Wednesday, Belgica said the names of the congressmen were mentioned in complaints about irregularities involving projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

“This has to be investigated formally. We need solid documents. We probably need a forensic of the projects... All of these should be substantiated so a case can be filed…All of these have to be substantiated and validated, so that the cases can stand in court,” he said.

Defensor said Belgica himself is admitting that the evidence he has collected is not sufficient for the filing of charges against the House members allegedly involved in corruption.

He also asserted that his agency does not have jurisdiction over lawmakers and other elective officials.

“If that is so, why talk about this issue, titillate the imagination of the public and put all House members in bad light?” he asked.

He suggested that Belgica should turn over whatever formal complaints he has in his possession to the DOJ or the Ombudsman’s office, where preliminary investigations are mostly kept secret until charges are filed.

In the Palace, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said any informant who could identify corrupt activities in government must give his or her name to get the whistleblower reward offered by President Duterte.

Earlier, the Presidentoffered a cash incentive of as much as P100,000 to any person who can give information on any anomalous activity in government and the people involved.

Duterte said those who will report corruption involving small contracts will be given P50,000 while those reporting on big contracts will be rewarded P100,000. Those who will report “petty graft” in government agencies may earn P10,000, he said.

Duterte said informants may remain anonymous if they want, and vowed to ensure their protection. He pledged to “deal with the devil” if the informant complains about any harassment.

The Palace issued the statement after the Office of the President teamed up with two telecommunications firms to launch the text service platform 8888 citizens’ complaint hotline.

Under the program, the public can simply text 8888 to raise their complaints about corruption and inefficient delivery of service free of charge.

Topics: Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission , House of Representatives , Greco Belgica , Mike Defensor , Rodrigo Duterte , Harry Roque
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